The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which White Flag International claims is one of the project’s “partners,” is set to sue the organisation for “slander” saying the foundation has not had any kind of cooperation with the project for several years.
Replying to questions by The Shift News, a spokesperson for the foundation said they have repeatedly warned those behind the White Flag project to stop the use of Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation logo and to stop promoting any related association.
“These previous warnings having had no results, we are now planning to start legal proceedings in order to cease this unlawful behaviour and remove the foundation’s logo and name from their web site,” the foundation told The Shift News.
The Shift News yesterday revealed that individuals are charging €25,000 for sponsorship of a White Flag on beaches in Malta. The flag is supposed meant to denote a ‘plastic free’ beach after the seabed and water surface have been cleaned by divers, according to the project.
There are seven beaches in Malta that have been ‘awarded’ a White Flag, totaling some €175,000. Sources told The Shift News the money went to an account in Zagreb, Croatia, which raised questions on whether the money was actually being spent on environmental protection.
The people behind the project – a three-person band that gave themselves a number of lofty titles – use the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation to add credibility to the project since none of the individuals involved have a credible track record in the environmental field.
Photos of Prince Albert II can also be found on their website, which also lifts photos from genuine clean ups of other organisations and falsely presents them as White Flag events.
“For several years, we did not have any kind of cooperation with White Flag. We are aware of the situation. We have sent them several warnings since late 2017, plus a formal notice at the beginning of August to stop this slander,” the foundation said.
Environment Minister Jose Herrera became “an ally” in the project “from the start” and a dubious “pioneer of ocean protection,” according to the project’s promotional material.
The Environment Ministry told The Shift News it “did not sponsor certifications of White Flag initiatives”. It did not clarify whether EU funds were used.
Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana committed to having White Flags on all of Gozo’s beaches, with three already in place at Mgarr ix-Xini, Marsalforn and Daħlet Qorrot.
The Gozo Ministry replied to questions sent by The Shift News, explaining its “tireless work to ensure all beaches in Gozo are up to standard”. The ministry said no EU funds were used to sponsor White Flags in Gozo, but it did not address the question of whether the Gozo Ministry had used taxpayers’ money to fund the three existing White Flags on the island.
Last Tuesday, Health Minister Chris Fearne was handed a White Flag at Gnejna – in stormy weather and rough seas that did not permit a clean-up of the marine seabed and surface.
Replying to questions by The Shift News, the Health Ministry said Dr Fearne was invited to the event by the operators of the White Flag. No funds were paid in support of the event by the Health Ministry.
The White Flag at Gnejna was sponsored by an igaming company. Hours after the White Flag was ‘awarded’ to Gnejna Bay, the rough sea was still carrying plastic onto the beach.
Ghajn Tuffieha, also ‘awarded’ a White Flag, required an emergency clean up recently after the storms ridiculed the notion of a “plastic free” beach. Ramla l-Hamra, in Gozo, which is also a ‘White Flag beach’ was the same today.
The man behind the idea is Croatian Kristijan Curavić who teamed up with the owner of a local gym, Steve Abela, to set up an ‘international certification’ for plastic free beaches.
Following the government’s endorsement of the project, sponsors – mostly igaming companies – have handed over tens of thousands of euro to these individuals on the claim that Malta and Gozo will be used as “a showcase” for a plastic-free island – an ambition that can rake in millions at €25,000 a flag to cover the coastline.
Environmentalists have questioned the benefits of the project and the funds these individuals are receiving when local NGOs are struggling to raise awareness and finance campaigns for environmental protection.
“If local NGOs are struggling to get the support needed to care for the environment voluntarily, how come a foreign NGO is given hundreds of thousands of euro for doing, what seems to be, nothing? On top of that, they are not even inviting people to these events they say should unite people for awareness. They only report about these events afterwards, which I find very odd, ” said Camilla Applegren of Malta Clean Up, a volunteer organisation that does regular clean ups around the island.
Partit Demokratiku (PD) criticised the project in a statement, demanding answers on the government’s endorsement of the scheme.